Bizarre laws abroad - have you been caught out?

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Consider being fined or even arrested for some of the following:

- Feeding the birds
- Playing bingo
- Chewing gum
- Using nasal spray

These are all pretty harmless and normal everyday occurrences for most of us, but the above can get you in trouble in places like Venice, Portugal, Singapore and Japan.

The British Foreign Office dealt with almost 4,500 arrests abroad last year as Britons were unaware of some of the less obvious rules and restrictions in their chosen holiday destinations. (See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-23852495)

What bizarre laws in foreign countries have you ever come across? Have you ever been caught out?

Lottie Gross 29/08/13    General travel chat Link Report

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I’m Portuguese, so the ‘feeding the birds’ ban sounds quite normal to me. That law exists because birds (and, more specifically, pigeons) soil everything. Just take a look at statues, pillars, churches and whatnot and you can always tell pigeons (a lot of them) have been there. Cleaning the monuments is very expensive (and let’s face it, how do you like coming to a city that is constantly under repair?), so municipal authorities put birth control in bird feed. If others feed the birds, they won’t go for this special bird feed… which leads to bird population growth.
As for me, earlier this year I came across a very interesting ban in the streets of Tokyo, where you can’t smoke while walking outside (there are designated areas all over the city). I don’t smoke, but I would be in trouble if I did and I hadn’t happen to spot a sign on the pavement.

Isabel Ferreira 29/08/13    Link Report

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I totally get what you mean on the bird front. It’s interesting that birth control is put in the feed though – never knew that!

On the smoking front, my mum and I were in Nairobi last year and discovered (thanks to a fairly rude but informative Matatu driver) that it is illegal to smoke in public in the city – she certainly cut down on that trip :P

Lottie Gross 29/08/13    Link Report

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Never been caught out by any serious law, thankfully my research beforehand has served me well so far. I think a lot of it may have been sensible good luck as well though. I know there are some idiots out there who think that just because they are tourists the local laws don’t apply to them, but I also think even the most prepared of backpackers can’t know everything.

I wish more countries would implement that smoking ban like in Tokyo though!

I travel a lot with my old military bergen (it’s sentimental, plus grenade proof so that’s a bonus!) But I know that it isn’t the best idea to travel in some areas like Madagascar or half of Africa with military stuff so I also have my back up backpack. Hey, that almost rhymed! But in some countries like Barbados, St. Kitts and Trinidad wearing camouflage is downright illegal. I make a point of knowing beforehand.

The funniest laws I have come across are in my favourite city in the world, good old Singapore! You’ll get fined for eating a durian, for letting any one see you naked from a public space (hey, peeping toms are the perverts and you get fined!), not flushing the loo or dancing without a licence! God I love Singapore!

Michael Huxley 29/08/13    Link Report

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Michael, dancing without licence? Breaks my heart! Though I have to give it to Singapore for being hard on the non-flushers. Seriously now THAT should be a law worldwide.

Nishi Jain 29/08/13    Link Report

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How would one go about obtaining a license to dance Michael?! Do you have one? :P

Lottie Gross 30/08/13    Link Report

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Nah, only to kill. I wrote it on the back of a Cornflake packet after watching James Bond! Haha!

I have no idea, I have never felt the need to dance in public in Singapore! Just think, those are some of the LEAST weird things they’ll fine you for there!

Michael Huxley 30/08/13    Link Report

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Okay, listen to this one. In Sweden, it is illegal to use the services of a prostitute. Prostitution however, is legal. A catch-22 situation here.
And there’s another one which is kinda sweet. In the UK, a pregnant woman can legally relieve herself anywhere she wants, even, as the law states, “in a policeman’s helmet.” :)

Nishi Jain 29/08/13    Link Report

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Good luck trying to get a policeman to agree to that now Nishi!

I think a lot of those old archaic laws will be thrown out in court if someone tried. Now what was that one about killing a Welshman with a long bow on the 5th Sunday of the second month of something …

Michael Huxley 29/08/13    Link Report

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I’ve never been caught out by any of the following but they’re pretty amusing… It’s supposedly a legal requirement to be smiling at all times, except at funerals or hospital visits, in Milan, and apparently, a man can’t relieve himself standing up after 10pm in Switzerland!

Also, any single ladies looking to parachute in Florida – don’t do it on a Sunday, you could be jailed!

Source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1568475/Ten-stupidest-laws-are-named.html

Lottie Gross 29/08/13    Link Report

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Not standing up to pee?!?!?! Pirate tell me it isn’t true! It doesn’t seem natural!

Michael Huxley 29/08/13    Link Report

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“I wish more countries would implement that smoking ban like in Tokyo though!”

Oh my. They had a referendum in Switzerland not long ago. They had banned smoking INSIDE public places previously, but it’s ok to smoke at the outside tables and chairs.

Seems the non-smokers thought (past tense) that they’d just get those seats for themselves. Nice try, though.

(Btw, Lottie, sent you an email on your Live.com addy)..

PirateAt50 29/08/13    Link Report

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They had a similar one here in the UK too Pirate. Now you can’t enter a public building without walking through a cloud of poisonous gas from all the idiots huddled in doorways, still technically outside!

Michael Huxley 29/08/13    Link Report

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I am positive that one day I will no longer smoke. But by the way it looks, i may not be doing anything else either ;)

PirateAt50 30/08/13    Link Report

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Ha! Good point!

I probably wouldn’t mind so much if those idiots in doorways would just disperse away from the doorways to let people through! It’s a few damn steps people! See, Tokyo has got it right!

Michael Huxley 30/08/13    Link Report

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